The experience volunteering through GoEco on the Orangutan Conservation Expedition in Sumatra was totally fabulous.The accommodations at base camp were well appointed, the food (which was prepared for us) was delicious and perfect for my vegetarian diet, and they even had a sit on top of toilet!
The house was located in the midst of rice fields where you are able to look out and see how locals live each day. During our stay, many of them were harvesting their rice and we took them cold watermelon to enjoy as they worked.
Some of our volunteer responsibilities at base camp included in-putting data from previous orangutan sightings into the computer and also working around the house to keep it in tiptop shape.
After a few days, we began our 6-day jungle experience where our task was to trek to and through the jungle in search of wild orangutans. If and when we would find one, our goal was to try to collect their poop (for parasite study) and log what plants they choose to eat for both medicinal reasons and general diet.
The local guide who led the expedition was extremely well versed about all facets of the jungle and made the trip even more interesting and informative. The jungle was so pristine — we bathed in the crystal clear stream, slept under a simple lean-to, ate food prepared by camp fire, and had absolutely no connectivity to the outside world.
The trekking was fairly strenuous but breathtakingly beautiful. There are many steep and challenging areas and after it rained, it was extremely slippery. One day we hiked to a beautiful waterfall where we enjoyed fresh fruit while taking in the gorgeous surroundings.
Unfortunately, the wild orangutans are quite elusive and we only had the chance to follow one in our entire time in the jungle. We did have the chance to see monkeys and other primates, snakes, a wild peacock, crazy bugs, and watch our guide catch spiky eel which we enjoyed for dinner one night. We did get to view and photograph the semi-wild orangutans at the reserve before beginning the expedition so we got our ‘orangutan fix.’ They are such fascinating creatures that seem to be able to look into your soul.
There is a lot to do in Sumatra so either plan to come early or stay late. Some of the other things I had the chance to do in Sumatra included climbing an active volcano (a bit uncomfortable seeing the smoke coming out as you are getting closer and closer) and visiting some areas of Sumatra where native tribes still exist. I also had the chance to do some white water rafting, tubing, hiking through a massive bat cave, and spend two days at an elephant ranger station in the middle of nowhere. In addition to having the chance to bath the elephants, we had the chance to ride through the jungle bare back on these magnificent animals. This was a remote place (5 hours driving and 1 hour in a dug out canoe to get there) where only scientists come so there were no other people except the rangers and my 3 fellow volunteers.
I loved the time I spent volunteering in Indonesia on the Orangutan Research Expedition and I’m sure you will too!
Get involved and begin the journey of your lifetime! Click here for more details about the Orangutan Conservation Expedition in Indonesia!